Hi friends, here’s an everyday sort of pie story for you – catching up from March here (and honestly, patting myself on the back a bit that lately my blog posts have been about fairly recent history.) It feels good to be here and writing for you so regularly.
Sometimes, circumstances collude to create just the right conditions for a batch of mini pies in jars. I’d added some Granny Smith apples to my Imperfect Foods box the week before, I had streusel topping in the freezer, and I needed a small but meaningful gift to bring over to a couple from church. (Over the last eight or nine months of Covid-era-life, our church has had a pairing list to connect families on a weekly basis. It’s been really great to have the opportunity to give and receive creative gifts and gestures when we aren’t able to see our church family as a whole on a regular basis.)
Granny Smith apples, pears, a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg, lemon juice…a simple, can’t-go-wrong filling. In addition to two jars for our church friends, I made a pie for my friend Erin (it was her birthday week, hence the included candle). I also had to make a airplane pie-in-a-jar for our Matt (Uncle Teo to Pippa) who was getting ready to go back to his hometown of KC after a few months of writing his dissertation from our dining room table. And, of course, I made one in a ramekin for Pippa Pip, who helped me make the pastry and thinks there’s hardly anything better than homemade apple pie.
After a morning of pie-making, Pippa and I met up with Erin and her daughter Emery for a girls’ sushi lunch. I love that these two sweet girls are good buddies despite being many years apart in age. (Click the link to see the last photo I posted of Emery on this blog. Boy oh boy. To continue the Head and the Heart quote I started in that post from 2014, the months turn into years!)
This churashi bowl was gorgeous! Eating in a parking lot isn’t always the most picturesque, and we had a chilly day for it, but you’ll never catch me complaining about anything our restaurants have had to do to stay open this year. The food service world has been on my heart constantly.
Pippa can eat a lot – but not THAT much fried rice. (She’s enjoying it, despite the quizzical look on her face.) I hope she takes after her friend Emery’s love of sriracha and all things spicy someday.
It was a happy birthday celebration for a dear friend!
2021 is upon us, and, arbitrary though it may be, it feels good to move forward. It feels good to set new goals and intentions, to re-dedicate ourselves to our core beliefs and values and relationships, to know that any pain and struggles we experienced in 2020 will carve space for deeper joys to come, if we let them.
This is going to be a long post. The format was the most recent guest baker (aka Levi)’s suggestion so if you get too the end of this and think “THIS WAS TOO. MUCH. PIE.,” you can take it up with him. I was intrigued by the idea of starting my blogging life somewhat afresh in 2021, so I went for it. Without further ado, here is a roundup of eight dessert pies I baked in 2020 that had not yet been blogumented.
Yep, I just made that word up.
Indiana Buttermilk Pie
August 2020. First of three pies from when our friend Matt was in California to visit us for slightly over a week. Three pies in a week, that’s well above my usual pace. To put it in perspective, if that was my standard pace, this project would have been over by 2013. This was my first buttermilk pie (there are three buttermilk pie recipes in Pie) but not my last in 2020, as you’ll see. Simple, basic, uncomplicated flavor. 1 teaspoon of vanilla is the only real flavoring agent, and the tartness of the buttermilk shines straight through. I loved this.
“White” Summer Fruit Pie…sort of!
August 2020. Second of three pies in aforementioned week. We really wanted one of them to be a fruit pie, and Matt (Pie Hype Man) really wanted me to make progress in the cookbook, so we chose this “White” Summer Fruit recipe. It called for Rainier cherries and either white peaches or nectarines. As it turned out, we weren’t able to locate Rainiers so late in the summer, so we followed the recipe exactly but used zero cherries, white Saturn peaches, yellow nectarines, and rhubarb (of which I freeze lots each spring). While it was absolutely divine and we ate it with homemade vanilla ice cream (extra divinity points) my overactive conscience won’t allow me to check this pie off my list until I make it again with Rainier cherries. *Avoids eye contact with Matt, who totally thought this one counted.* But look how pretty!!
Little Crème Brûlée Pies
August 2020. Third of three. Unusual and unforgettable mini pies. My first time making Ken’s “Extra Flaky” pie crust recipe, which calls for cake flour. (Also my first time purchasing cake flour! A few of the pies in this post had ingredients outside the typical realm of my pantry, as you’ll see.) The pastry was lovely to work with and yielded enough for four miniature pie pans, pictured below. After these pies are baked, they are topped with a layer of brown sugar and blow-torched to perfection. I mean, what could be better?
Coconut Cream Pie with Coconut Meringue Topping
October 2020. More ingredients I never hardly ever buy: sweetened flaked coconut and cream of coconut (as in, the stuff in piña coladas, not to be confused with coconut cream aka thicker coconut milk). My cousin Martin’s family visited us for a weekend and I wanted to make a great pie to enjoy all together. When we were growing up and on summertime vacations in Vermont, Martin and I were the little kids who would order coconut almond ice cream without fail when we’d all go to our favorite ice cream shop (our grandparents’ treat). Our shared love of coconut led me to choose this pie for the occasion. Decadent. A coconut lover’s dream come true; yet, not overpowering or artificial in any way.
Three Sisters Coconut Buttermilk Pie
October 2020. Remember that sweetened flaked coconut I’d just bought? Me too…so I looked for another recipe that called for it. Since making the Indiana Buttermilk Pie and absolutely adoring it, I had been looking forward to trying a second buttermilk pie – this was an easy pick. Like a coconut custard pie but with the tang of buttermilk to take it to the next level; a real treat. We shared this pie with our good friends Brad and Deb at our big outdoor table. It seats 18, but we’ve been so grateful for the few times this year that we’ve used it to seat even 4. ❤
Homestead Chess Pie
November 2020. I was looking for something very simple, with pantry ingredients, as I decided to put this pie together at the last minute. This fit the bill: eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, a bit of vinegar and cornmeal. In my last blog post, I mentioned that I made a (correct) executive decision to bake my Tarte au Sucre an extra 15 minutes past the time given in the recipe. I initially took this pie out at 35 minutes (recipe calls for 30-35) but ended up putting it back in the oven later, cause it clearly was underbaked. Yikes. Perhaps my oven does run cold and I am just waking up to this fact? I shall ponder this further. A delightful pie in the end, for all its simplicity. The fifth of the five Chess Pies in Pie – I’ve now exhausted that category. I confess, I did secretly wish this was a Lemon Chess Pie when I was eating it. Levi probably did too because he is Mr. Lemon Dessert.
Crock-Pot Fall Fruit Pie
November 2020. The name above ruins my punch line. Which of the desserts pictured below do you think was my Thanksgiving pie this year? That’s right, it’s the only one that looks nothing like a pie! This oval-shaped semi-imposter, though not what you would expect of me, was a popular and tasty dessert table choice that I’d recommend any of you try. It’s made with baking mix (like Bisquick – I used Birch Benders Organic Classic Pancake and Waffle Mix), fresh cranberries, pears, apples. Super Thanksgiving-y and great with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.
Apple and Blueberry Crumb Pie
December 2020. This was an important pie for me. I didn’t follow a recipe. I made it for my dear Linda (Pippa’s former nanny) and her family. My apple pie is Linda’s favorite, my blueberry pie is her daughter’s favorite, and they both love crumb topping. Linda had filled a pie dish with homemade tamales for us shortly before Thanksgiving. After the tamales sustained us for several days, I was left with this empty dish (it says Blessed on the bottom – I’d actually given it to her as a gift the last week she worked for us). I couldn’t picture giving it back like that, so I made this pie while Pippa took an afternoon nap one day. This has been a season of grief, and that was an afternoon when the grief was more present than I realized. There was something so visceral in making that pie with my hands, both painful and healing at the same time. I didn’t expect to react the way I did to peeling and coring the apples, to breaking up clumps of butter with my floury fingers – each familiar step generating a physical heartache – but perhaps I should have. Linda said her whole family agreed it was the best pie they have ever had.
Through that experience, I recognized that pie making has become a way to let my heart speak what is on is mind. It is a path I can walk any time, in any weather. And it is a way I can return blessings on the givers in my life, of whom there truly are many.
Be blessed in 2021, my friends, though it may look different than you expect. Happy New Year!
A few editorial notes:
You probably got this already, but a pie named in bold type is a pie from Ken Haedrich’s Pie baked for the first time. The two fruit pie titles are not in bold, denoting that they aren’t counting towards my count to 300.
While at this moment I’m feeling 96.5% sure that I covered all of 2020’s sweet pies, there were also a couple savory pies I’d like to tell you a bit more about another day. Also, there are still some pies of yesteryear that will occasionally pop into my mind or out of old photos which have yet to claim their rightful place in the gallery. So, if you had any fear that I was completely done with flashbacks…fear not.
This is the exact thing that these pies are called in my ultimate pie guide to life (Pie by Ken Haedrich, if you’re a new reader…and if so, welcome!) But friends, I am here to tell you: these are not just for the kids.
However, I do highly suggest this as a recipe to make (in part or full, depending on their age) with your kids, if you’re looking for delicious family bonding activities. Here’s what your mini cheesecake pies will look like this if you let a pair of enthusiastic two-year-olds decorate them.
We whipped up these delightful little concoctions over the past weekend, during a short vacation with my cousin’s family to the mountain town of Big Bear Lake, California. The recipe calls for individual store-bought graham cracker crusts. And, I can’t*. So I brought along the jumbo muffin tin and made my own. Grease the muffin tin well and they’ll slide out just fine. I wasn’t sure, but I tested it for you all and you’ve got the green light.
*See multiple other Peace of Pie posts where I enumerate the merits of homemade graham cracker crusts.
Here are some things I learned while making these pies.
If you forget to pack brown sugar, you can make a fine graham cracker crust with regular sugar. It’s something I hadn’t done before. Brown sugar is much nicer because it’s a bit damper and stickier, which helps bind the crumbs together. But it isn’t essential.
If you forget to bring an electric mixer, you can enlist someone with strong arms to whip the filling together. The hardest part is the cream cheese, even if softened. I do suggest using an electric mixer if you’re not at a remote cabin with limited options, this is definitely a last resort tip.
A valid question you could ask at this point if you’d like is, “Did you actually participate in the making of these pies at all, Jess?” Let’s just say it was a team effort, with myself, Levi, Pippa, and her buddy Jack all equally contributing to the creative process.
Here is the most aesthetically appealing photo you’ll find in this post. Pies prior to the toddler decorating party, with a delightfully colorful berry plate in waiting.
Next, an onslaught of cute photos of Pippa and Jack doing what they do best: pretending to decorate with berries while actually scarfing down berries. Okay, Pippa was a way worse offender here than Jack. While Jack was placing a blueberry directly into the center of each pie (with enough force to make the filling squish up towards the ceiling), Pippa was promising to “decorate” with each new berry while literally popping 3/4 of them into her mouth. SO many fakeouts.
The recipe contains numerous other suggestions for how to decorate these pies: Caramel-Nut, Candy Fantasy, Choco-Mallow. Anyone else starting to think about Cheesecake Factory? We kept it simple and fresh this time. What’s your favorite berry to pair with cheesecake? I’m a raspberry girl myself.
My pie-lovin’ heart was super happy to see these cute kiddos each enjoy half of one of the cheesecake pies they had “made themselves”. For those doing math at home, the four adults had no problem polishing off the other five mini pies later that evening. Like I said – not just for the kids.
What will you top your mini cheesecake pies with? Do you have a kid in your life who would love to bake and/or eat these? Lemme know because you know I loooove those sweet comments. And, happy fall to my fellow Northern Hemisphereans. Is it me or does a change in season feel especially good this year?
I am delighted to announce another (small) milestone on my journey to 300 pies.
125! That means…er…only 25 more pies to the halfway point. I think this journey won’t soon be over. The good news is, although it’s slow going, I’m still enjoying it-and I hope you are too.
If you haven’t peeked into the pie gallery recently, take a look-you might be inspired to recreate one of the 125 over the holiday season. Perhaps even these Little Cream Pies. They’re small, cute, shareable, no-fuss, and tasty as anything. They’re winners, crowd-pleasers. You get to mix the filling with your fingers inside each individual muffin pan cup and then pour little blurps of cream on top. In short, they have everything to recommend them. And if you don’t have the Pie cookbook yet and therefore don’t have the recipe–it might, just might, be time to treat yourself to a holiday gift. 🙂
Here are some pictures of the Little Cream Pies I made for my friend Colleen’s birthday tea party back in September–a lovely evening with even lovelier ladies and an abundance of treats!
Hi everyone! I hope you’re all having a fabulous fall. I’d like to share a little milestone of late. As you know (unless you’re brandy new to reading this blog) I figured out a while back that pies can be baked in glass jars and shipped rather easily. Sometimes the post office does a better job with the speed of delivery than other times, but I have definitely mailed and/or carried onto planes a decent number of pies in jars now. Maybe fifty? Anyway. Here’s the milestone. Last month I filled an actual order for a pie shipment. I.e. a lovely lady I know asked me to mail her son pie for his October birthday, and so I made two little apple blackberry pies and mailed them to Wisconsin and she paid me. So if I ever get around to starting a legit pie-in-a-jar business, Jaci and Croix can have the honor of being my first ever customers. Thanks so much! I hope they were delicious!
In other recent happenings, Levi and I visited Richmond, VA last weekend, primarily for my girl Liz’s wedding. It’s one of the special places in my heart and it was so good to be there and to spend the weekend with a bunch of my favorite people.
On Sunday afternoon, we went to a delight of a place called The Proper Pie Co. My word. We bought savory hand pies and sweet slices, headed to a park with a load of blankets, and ate and traded bites with each other (Butter Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese, Lamb and Vegetable, Curried Lentil and Spinach, Key Lime, Sweet Potato and Pecan, Peach and Blackberry…I mean, really.) Afterwards I laid down with my head on my best friend’s lap and declared (to no one’s surprise) that I was in my happy place.
(New Zealand friends, please appreciate the verbiage under the coffee column…:))
I was told that this pie is made with vanilla poached slices of sweet potato. Because, why not.
We are blessed. Check back for another (not-so-recent) pie story later this week!
Ironically, I’m pretty sure that standard mail to Australia is faster than priority mail to Georgia, Illinois, or Virginia. What in tarnation?! Lesson: The United States Postal System is an abject failure.
Eric Lange, my official domestic tester in Virginia, sent me this lovely ditty after receiving and consuming the pie:
“O Apple-Pear 5 Spice
You are so good and nice
You make my taste buds sing
You are the greatest thing!
A brown box in the mail
Delivered, without fail
A complete, delish pie
I was one lucky guy!”
Eric, you are the greatest thing.
Following that mini-pie episode, I embarked on another of epic proportions before Christmas, making about 30 pies to give as holiday gifts to the wonderful and devoted teachers I work with and some of my faraway family in New Jersey and Georgia.
Just one of the fillings I used was a recipe from Ken Haedrich’s book: All-Pear Pie with Maple and Candied Ginger. I’d been meaning to try this pie for so long (it’s one of my cousin Carly’s favorites, and she gave me the cookbook so she ought know). Funny thing is, I didn’t gift myself one of these pies, so I’ll be no doubt re-doing this recipe so I can actually have some. (I did have one bite of a friend’s, to be fair. But it wasn’t enough.)
The next two fillings were my own made-up combinations. Here’s the Cran-Apple Spice; I love how beautiful the fresh cranberries are and the sourness they bring to the table. I choose sour flavors over sweet every time and I have to say that I thought this pie was a win-win combination of both.
And here is the Honey-Apple-Raspberry filling, looking like a bit of a mess. But yum.
Mini-pie manufacturing is no piddling job. By the time you make multiple batches of crust, a few fillings, crumbs for the topping, labels for the tops…you’re looking at a long night.
The three pies below traveled not by car, not by mail, but by carry-on. This conversation happened.
TSA agent: I’m going to have to re-run your bag, miss.
Me in my head: Crap.
TSA agent: What are these?
Me: They’re pies….in jars.
TSA agent: Pies in jars?? That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!! (Calls other TSA agents to marvel over the coolness that is pie-in-a-jar.)
TSA agent: I think I’m going to have to keep one of these…*laughs*
Me: I’ll make an extra one just for you next time I come through *smiles*
Would this have happened at any other time besides Christmas? Doubtful. But I loved it.
While we’re on the subject of mini pies (which, as it turns out, is more often then not…) for the third year in a row, I had the opportunity to contribute pie to a bake sale supporting my students. (Last year I sent this batch of minis…the year before I had not yet perfected the art of sending pie traveling and sent two whole pies to be sliced and sold.)
I made another Honey-Apple-Raspberry filling (since they had been pretty popular the last time ’round) and a Blueberry-Pear filling with cardamom and maple syrup, both my own recipes. I think I have figured out a pretty exact ratio for mini pie filling; the amount of filling that would fit into one largish normal pie fits roughly into nine jars. Okay, perhaps “exact” isn’t the right word, but it’s a helpful rule to follow. So the filling below made 18 mini pies. And the filling overflowed, so I really could have done 19, or 20.
This was the first year I was able to see the bake sale in person (and I forgot to take any pictures, wouldn’t you know!) By the time I got there, the sale had been going on for perhaps two hours and most of my pies were already gone. I hope they were thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks so much to those who bought them or supported the Palm Springs bake sale in any other fashion. Over $1600 was raised for the Christadelphian Heritage School!
As always, thanks for reading. I’ll leave you with a reminder…PI DAY IS NEXT FRIDAY!
So I made them. I made these mini pies. The last time I made Pies-in-Jars, I made up the recipes. Not this time. This time I used Ken Haedrich’s Orange-Berry Pie recipe. (I have to say, I’ve gotten into a terrible habit this summer. Once I realized that I could make pretty great fruit pies without following recipes, I started getting creative all over the place. You can imagine that this does absolutely no good in helping me towards my goal of baking all 300 pies in Ken’s book.) Never fear. I went back to my book on this one. I just slightly altered it by turning it into multiple little pies- one destined for Thamar, one destined for Eric, and one destined for Jen.
I used a regular pastry crust, which I slightly rolled out and then basically pressed it into the bottom and up the sides of the jar.
Holes: they happen. It’s no biggie. Just patch them up with your fingers.
Before I started making these pies, I found out a bit of an ironic situation had come up. My international tester (Jen) was heading to the USA for the summer, while my domestic tester (Eric) was heading to Brazil. I’m told the postal system in Brazil is kind of a joke. I knew I’d be away for most of the summer myself, so I went ahead and made the pies, planning on freezing Jen and Eric’s unbaked.
Putting a crumb topping on Pies-in-Jars is great because there ends up being a high crust to filling ratio in the jar situation. So it’s nice to have something besides more crust on top.
These three got baked right away, while the other two aforementioned went straight to the freezer to await the return of their owners to their respective places in the world.
I mentioned these labels before in my original Pie-in-a-Jar post and this time I actually used them. Shout out and thanks to LollyChops!
I packaged this little friend up with some bubble wrap and a box and probably took other precautions I have forgotten about now.
This was Thamar’s email to me the following week:
More pie photos!
We were so eager to eat the pie that we forgot to take a picture of ourselves with the pie! We paired it with a local vanilla ice-cream and it was delicious!
We had lightly covered the pie with tin foil and then warmed it in the oven at 350F for 30 minutes (I had put it in the refrigerator for a day after receiving the pie). Perfect pie for two!
Thank you again for such a lovely surprise! It was just what we needed!
You are wondering how this story ends for the two pies in the freezer. Jen and Eric, you will still get pie, all being well, but it will not be those two. A few weeks ago, something tragic happened to some of my best friends. It was (and is) the type of thing that there are just no words for. There was (and is) no way to talk about it. There only was (and only is) shock and disbelief. I am bad at talking in the best of times, and so when I had the opportunity to make a meal for these friends (because, strangely, we still need to eat) and they asked if there would be pie involved, the best thing I could think to do was pull these jars out of the freezer.
Even when the small things I can offer (hugs, tears, pie) seem so ridiculously inadequate, I am glad to have something to offer all the same.
In the recipe for Little Preserves and Finger Pies it was suggested that these pies are great for kids to make. Well, heck. Mine turned out oozy and lopsided enough to really make me wonder what they would look like if they were made by children.
Mostly, I think my problem here was greed. The more raspberry or strawberry preserves and dark chocolate chips in each little pie, the better….right? Wrong. Once the jam oozes out the rim, it’s like the kiss of death. That jammy spot will never again seal up properly. Luckily, looks don’t have much to do with taste.
I had to tone down the amount of filling just a tad from what the recipe suggests in order to be able to seal these little babies up. Speaking of little babies, these pies were destined for a very special event…my good friend Erin’s first baby shower! One of my favorite things about my pregnant friends (and by favorite things I mean things that really make me laugh) is how hungry some of them get. Erin is a quality example of this. She basically doesn’t ever stop eating these days.
(Love you, Erin!)
Something fun about these pies is that when they’re still warm, you get to roll them around in powdered sugar. Then they look super delectable.
Here they are with all of their other sugary friends.
Here are me and Erin and her baby girl enjoying some baby pies. Can’t wait to meet you, little one!
We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to show you a picture of Levi’s hand, choosing, at random, an international Pie-in-a-Jar testing volunteer.
(He did the same thing for the domestic crew.)
(His eyes were closed, so there was no cheating or bias involved.)
And the winners of this highly sophisticated name drawing are…
Jen Wallace in Melbourne, Australia, and Eric Lange in Norfolk, Virginia (I mean, I think it’s you, Eric. I can’t imagine who else could possibly be known as the Norfolk Ninja?)
(Jen, make sure you give Tim a bite. For the sake of marital harmony.)
I have decided to add one more taste-tester to my list. And that is Thamar Alexander, who first gave me the idea to make pies in a jar when she sent me this link in 2011.
If the three of you could so kindly scroll to the very bottom of this site and send your mailing addresses to the email address listed below, I will send you a Pie-in-a-Jar perhaps not in the very IMMEDIATE future but certainly in the not-so-distant future. 🙂